The low-key, dull-coloured flamboyant cuttlefish

The low-key, dull-coloured flamboyant cuttlefish

Thu, 20/08/2020 - 08:27
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It seems that the flamboyant cuttlefish isn't as flamboyant as its name suggests.

A flamboyant cuttlefish in camouflage mode.

Based on a recent study, researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory have found that the flamboyant cuttlefish doesn't spend the day flashing its vibrant colours for our cameras.

Rather, it spends almost all its time camouflaged, in dull, subdued (safe!) colouration.

Before you cry foul over the countless photos of brilliantly coloured flamboyant cuttlefish you have seen, consider this: To the cuttlefish, you are a possible predator, headed straight in its direction, with a large box-like contraption in your hands. So, it "activates" its vibrant colours in an attempt to scare you away. (This change of colouration takes place in just 700 milliseconds.)

Unfortunately for it, this has the opposite effect of enticing us to want to approach it even more. Thus, it is no wonder that many photos of the flamboyant cuttlefish show the poor creature flashing its colours like crazy.

Dazzling displays plays a part in mating

Besides warding off potential predators, the male flamboyant cuttlefish also activates its colouration when courting a female or fighting with other male cuttlefish over a female.

In addition, it has the ability of two-sided colouration, wherein one side of the body is flamboyantly displaying to a female, while the other side displays subdued colours as a form of camouflage.

The study also made new discoveries about the sex life of the cuttlefish, from its courtship, mating and egg-laying behaviour, gleaned from hours of dives in Indonesian waters with teams of volunteer divers. Among other discoveries, it was found that during courtship, females typically rejected 50 percent of the males which attempted to mate with them, and the mating lasted about three seconds.

All findings of the study have been published in Volume 529 of Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.

"It turns out in nature, flamboyant cuttlefish are camouflaged nearly all of the time. They are nearly impossible to find." - Roger Hanlon

Marine Biological Laboratory

Press releases from Divers Alert Network (DAN)